Many IT Service Catalogs Fall Short

April, 2014

Over the past several years, nearly everything written about IT service management mentions the need for a service catalog. Although the concept of service catalogs has been around for a long time, IT service management specialists lately have been focusing on it almost as if they had found the Holy Grail. The service catalog is, in fact, a foundational element of IT service mangement. Organizations looking to implement best practices in their delivery of IT services need to ensure that all stakeholders have a basic understanding of this important concept.

Many IT organizations publish information about the services they provide that fall short of being qualified as a service catalog. For example, user guides, help desk knowledge repositories, application menus, and intranet sites all may contain useful information about IT services. But they do not qualify as service catalogs if they do not provide a structured definition of the services offered, the value of each service to the business, identification of the business users for each service, the levels of services available, and the associated cost of each service level. Furthermore, most of these existing sources of service information are written from the IT perspective, not from the perspective of the business user.

In our study, The Whats and Whys of the IT Service Catalog, senior research analyst Wayne Meriwether explains the concepts of the IT service catalog and why it is an essential part of IT service management. He also makes practical recommendations for getting top management support behind implementation of a service catalog. These recommendations are based on his years of experience as vice president of infrastructure for several firms in the entertainment and high tech industries.

The IT service catalog is often compared to a restaurant menu. A menu provides the customer with information about what foods are available, what ingredients are in each dish, the price of each dish with various preparation options, and so forth. In an IT organization with a service catalog, the principles are the same: the service catalog helps customers understand what services are available along with their various options. This allows them to make intelligent decisions concerning their use of IT services. A restaurant menu is not a perfect analogy because restaurant customers pay for what they consume, while IT users often consume services that they do not pay for directly.

In short, the service catalog serves as the foundation for the organization’s service offerings. It also is an important prerequisite for formalizing service agreements. It defines what services are offered, what those services provide to the business, the business users that consume the services, the levels of services available, and the cost of those services. Armed with this information, consumers of IT services can make sound business decisions as to the value and needed use of each IT service. In this way, the service catalog allows the business consumer and the IT organization to collaborate and right-size the IT services provided, resulting in more effective and measurable IT spending.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our management advisory on this subject, The Whats and Whys of the IT Service Catalog. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).